A majority of people who look into mobile development focus on the price. “How much does it cost to build an app?” is probably the most popular question we get asked by our clients. Unfortunately, there is no developer or software company that can simply put a price on your idea. That’s because the development process is a really intense one and there is plenty of factors that affect its price.

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This article will help you to figure out how much effort, time and money it takes to get your application up and running. So, let’s start with a deeper insight into what exactly will you need to pay for.

What Goes into Mobile App Development Cost?

Nobody wants to buy a pig in a poke. So, before paying your money for any service, you should know what work will be done instead. This advice works for app development as well.

Developing an app is not only about coding. It is a long and complicated route that consists of a bunch of processes and tasks made by a squad of different professionals. Here is a typical app development cycle from concept to release.


Requirement Gathering%5CAnalysis (4)


Now, let’s find out what the actual app development activities you will need to pay for are.

Requirements Gathering/Analysis. On this stage, Business Analyst defines project goals, end-users needs and creates a detailed Software Requirements Specification, Architectural Design Specification, and Functional Requirements Document. In some cases, a company also delivers clickable prototypes of a future app.

Design. The Design stage includes app interface design, user experience design, interaction design, app icon design, etc.

Development. A team of developers converts a design into a complete software system. It includes acquiring and installing systems environment; making database architecture; enabling API integrations; writing and running unit tests; preparing test case procedures; preparing test files, coding, compiling, refining programs and performing a test readiness review.

Integration and Testing. Bringing all the pieces of the app together into a testing environment; ensuring that developed app conforms to requirements as specified in project documentation (providing UI, UX testing, cross-browser testing, user acceptance testing, running automated tests, etc.).

Launch. Here the app is put into production. It includes resolution of problems defined on the previous stage, load testing, publishing to the App Store or Google Play and support by the development team. User training continues during this phase – as needed.

Maintenance. The stage involves performing changes, corrections, additions, and upgrades to ensure the app continues to meet business goals.

Now you see, project development costs are shared among several connected app development services. Plus, you know what to expect from your development team.

The next thing you need to remember is a rule for app development pricing: the more time a company has invested into building your app, the higher the cost for that app.
As you probably have no time estimation for the project now, keep reading and get a clearer picture of what impacts the final price of your app.

What are the Main App Pricing Factors?

Mobile app development pricing depends on 5 key factors that you are to decide before building an app.

  • The type of your app.
  • Platform choice – Android, iOS or both.
  • The number and technical complexity of the features.
  • An app development team.
  • An engagement model that suits your business.

All of the other details will have an impact on the app development cost as well. With that in mind, we would highlight what makes the most difference in pricing.

1. The type of your application

If you’re going to reach out to a software company, you should already have a coherent idea of what the app will do, for whom it’ll be and how it will look. This will bring you to the first step in app cost estimating process.

The cost to develop a mobile app would depend on the category of app you want to develop to address your target audience. Roughly, there are 3 types of mobile applications: basic functionality app, completely dynamic app and data driven app.

Basic functionality app

The main aim of this kind of apps is to display some simple information after a user selected from several possible options and has been redirected to additional data.

A calculator app is a great example. It may be created in no time with a help of a designer and a freelance web developer.

Data-driven app

Being able to present more info and give more options to a user, these apps often connect to a web service to retrieve data. It makes them harder to develop, so in this case, it is better to work with a professional development team.

Depending on whether you want a static or dynamic content the price of an application would be different. The first variant is cheaper because all the content you need will be built into the app. With the dynamic alternative, you get an online service that fetches content as required. Unlike with previous app type, here a user needs to have an Internet connection so that an application could extract all the needed info from external databases.

Dynamic apps

Such apps are often built with APIs. This brings in more complexity and expenses. An API retrieves data from external sources (this is why you can login into a number of mobile apps with your Facebook or Twitter account). Twitter, Flipboard, and The Weather Channel apps are great examples.

Custom solutions or else

We are sure there are some apps out there that are completely unique, but we would say the list above covers 95% of what’s available in the marketplace today.

2. Choosing a platform

You can develop an app for a variety of devices: iOS (iPhone and iPad), Android, Windows Phone, the Web; or, all together. The average cost to develop an app will be different, (depending on the platform you choose).

Comparison of average cost to develop an app for Android, iOS, Windows, Blackberry platforms

As we can see – iPhone app development cost is the highest. It is less expensive to create an app for Android or any other platform.

Due to Android app development cost and expected revenue, many companies decide to build iOS only apps. This is how they strive to reach out to a more engaged user base. However, Android has a wider market penetration and reach, particularly in emerging markets. It may be a good reason to make the app cross-platform.

Read more: Clash of the Titans: Android vs iOS Development

Similarly, many developers prefer to make an app for iOS and then port it to Android. This is partially due to a greater variety of devices for the Google’s platform. Our experts always keep in mind three aspects to decide which Android devices to support:

  • the trends of what devices end-users prefer;
  • the market share for each brand of Android digital devices;
  • client’s priorities.

All this should be considered beforehand based on a target audience research on a requirement gathering stage.

3. The number and technical complexity of the features

It’s up to you to decide which range of elements you want within your mobile application, so rate them from simple to medium and high complexity. Keep in mind that the price is largely shaped by how long it takes developers to implement each of these.

When it comes to the question “How much does it cost to make a mobile app?”, you can start with functionality and then sum up every function estimation to get a final price as well as a timeframe.

Median cost ranges for mobile app components

Image source: clutch.co

This time frame includes a coding system, the product definition, and design stages have to be built before the development of a mobile app.

These aspects of mobile app development can be relatively straightforward and basic, or they can be highly customized, challenging, and time-consuming. It depends on what type of app you’ve chosen on previous steps.

4. Selecting a development team

This is the vital part where you would need special attention. Having the right candidate for the task will ease the entire process of app development.

I would suggest that, instead of hiring an individual for the task, you hire a company with a team of experts. Apart from developers and designers, you’ll require a project manager, system administrator and a couple of more insider managers.

There are many companies who claim to be “a top mobile development company”, but not many are able to walk the talk.
There is no guarantee that going with an expensive company, will produce an app that is capable of giving you your money back.

You might wonder why high price doesn’t equal high quality. Again, let’s take a look at factors that form pricing:

  • location;
  • company size;
  • the level of experience.

Location. The level of infrastructure and economy of the country is one of essential cost influencing factors. Let’s take a look at the map for the cost breakdown.

Hourly rates for iOS an Android Developers around the globe

From the standpoint of the average hourly rates charged by app development companies, we can observe the following picture:

  • US and Canadian-based companies charge from $50 to $250 per hour;
  • Australian app development agencies offer their services for $50-$150;
  • Western European and UK-based developers are charging rates between $35 and $170;
  • Eastern Europeans (that’s where MindK is) are pretty happy with $20 – $150;
  • Indian rates of $10-$80 per hour are quite attractive.

Company size.  All businesses start with a few people who take on the roles and responsibilities of many people. As a team and a number of projects grow, some roles become more specialized and some even redundant. One designer becomes a team of designers plus a team of managers to lead and administer them.

Some of the largest software development firms, the “big boys” if you will, won’t give you the time of day if your budget is not at least $500,000. That is no surprise, because they have to spend 50-65% of that cost for technical personnel; 15-20% for administrative expenses, 10-15% for sales and marketing and 10-15% is left for profit.

In some cases, as the headcount grows, companies start to recruit more administrative personnel and tech guys straight out of college – so the net productive output per person shrinks. Thus, spending more money doesn’t guarantee better quality for your app.

Our own approach, for example, is focused on having a smaller team of the very best people in the industry versus simply pushing up our headcount.

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Now you know that going offshore and working with smaller company appears to cost less and it doesn’t affect the quality of your project.

The level of experience is the thing you can’t go cheap with.

What separates OK from great can be seen in the quality of the work. At a baseline, viewing a firm’s portfolio and checking out apps they have created will speak directly to the quality of their work.

5. Choosing an Engagement Model

Basically, three types of engagement models available for app development: Fix Project Cost, Time-and-material, and Dedicated team. All the others are their combinations. You have to choose one of them before signing a contract with your development team.

This comparison will help you decide which business model works best for you.

Engagement models for different small, middle and large projects

Fixed Price Model is a wise choice for small projects where cost reduction is a must. Fixed project quotes are preferred for the fixed scope and go milestone based.

A software company will provide you with a time estimation for the project where your software project is broken down into subtasks. Unless there are changes to the scope, the company sticks to this price and it never suffers a change.

Keep in mind, that this mode is not flexible for changes. You may ask for change requests only after the fixed scope of work is done. In this case, if your project requires a lot of changes in future, it might be costlier than when you choose either time-and-material or dedicated team model. That’s because of more time to make serious changes with no harm for the ready-made app and temporary resource availability for this type of contract.

Time-and-material is preferred for the unfixed scope and for larger projects. If your aim is to have your app delivered just in time, fully documented, tested and deployed – choose hourly rate pricing.

Although it makes your app more expensive, all you need to do is to provide requirements, a roadmap, occasional consultations about the project, and a deadline.

A team of programmers, QA engineers and designers will work on your app. A project manager will do whatever it takes to get your tasks done on time. Thus, a fixed price of a simple mobile app could be set around $5,000 or under, but don’t expect the same amount of special treatment in this case.

Time-and-material allows you to pay as you go and pay only for the actual work done for your project. All changes can be made immediately or during next sprint. So, this model appears to be the best for creating an app in a swiftly changing market.

As for Dedicated team model, you get a squad of professionals entirely focused on your app. It includes the same benefits as the previous model, but this option works better for huge, long-term projects with a need for a full-time resource availability.

Before choosing this model ensure that you are ready to provide tasks constantly. Otherwise, go with time-and-material and you won’t need to pay for downtime.

Our general advice to our clients is to start with the fixed-price model for MVP development. Further, after receiving first user reviews to your application – go with time-and-material or dedicated team model to upgrade it to a fully-fledged product.

Reducing the fixed scope to MVP development allows you to avoid common risks of fixed-price. Additionally, during the first stages of any app, there should be a significant amount of learning about what’s working and what’s not working. Trying to apply all that learning after is time and cost prohibitive.

In a Nutshell…

If you’re really going to give your app a chance, other considerations need to be made. You have to pay yourself, evaluate the cost for support time (if you’re doing that yourself), consider any hard costs for marketing and advertising, and comparable items.

If you’re an individual or early-stage venture, just ensure you include those costs to truly evaluate the bottom-line for bringing an app to market. If you’re an existing company hiring an outsourcing firm to build an app, these costs are likely accounted for already.

If you hesitate to start creating the app for your business because it may cost you too much, maybe it’s now time to consider all our tips and calculate it again.

Whether you better go for one mobile platform or work with an experienced offshore development team – there’s a good chance that there are plenty of changes that you can make in order to make app development a viable option for you.

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